EventNook Interview Series – Carolyn Oei

Behind The Scenes Of Event Planning and Brand Building

At EventNook, we witness the start and finish off numerous events and the evolution of many brands. From business conferences to musical festivals, what is constant for these various events is the never ending hard work involved in its planning, much like the marketing efforts of different brands. How do you plan a successful event? What is it like to build a brand name for a company? We reached out to some of these professionals to share their stories.


 

Carolyn Oei – Founder of The Creative Voice

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Carolyn is the founder of The Creative Voice, a company focused on arts and culture. She has organised and curated numerous festivals and shows including Musicity Singapore 2014, Lit Up Singapore, Singapore Heritage Festival (Tiong Bahru Night Programme), and Sarah Kay & Phil Kaye – A Spoken Word Experience. Other festivals and events Carolyn has supported include Singapore International Storytelling Festival, Singapore Night Festival, and Chemistry’s Makan Matters. Carolyn is also the co-founder and principal writer for Mackerel, a culture magazine that she started with poet/photographer, Marc Nair. She is also an Associate Lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. On the community front, she is a long-term volunteer with the Riding For The Disabled Association and is a member of her local resident’s committee. Carolyn is currently Festival Manager of Neon Lights, a music festival featuring international and local acts as well as robust arts programming.

1) What made you realize, and when did you realize creative directing was something you wanted to do instead of following the typical attorney route?

CO: “Creative directing” is an interesting term. I think it’s more relevant to what I do now with my company The Creative Voice than the public relations & communications work that I did previously with agencies and in-house. I left the law a long time ago. Although I am not practicing now, the skills that I learned have been invaluable. And they are basic yet critical things such as being able to read and draft a contract. These are fundamentals that everyone should be aware of, creative industry or not.
What made me realise that creative work was for me were motivation and natural inclination. I finally tuned into those two things and made the decision to do what I was more naturally gifted to do.

2) What does your schedule of a busy day look like?

CO: Something like this –

5.30am: Wake. Potter around slowly trying not to hurt myself fumbling about in the dark. Feed the cat.
5.45am: While water for tea is boiling, check email and phone messages to see if anything urgent needs to be attended to.
6.15am: Wolf down some breakfast, shower, and dress.
6.45am to 6pm: Get cracking. For me, this could mean going out to teach my classes at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, sitting at my computer to start writing an email, or going out to do an event, photo/video shoot, conduct interviews, and meetings.
8pm to 10pm: Catch up on work that I couldn’t do during the day because I was out. I find it difficult to incorporate the creative process, ie: the writing, into the frenzy of the daylight hours. So, my creative work is usually done at night and on the weekends.

3) As someone who works with ideas, have you ever felt stuck when working on projects? What do you do to get new inspirations?

CO: Yes, I have. I think it’s a very natural part of the process to plateau or to hit the proverbial wall. From experience, I’ve found that feeling stuck typically happens as a result of fatigue. Low batt is low batt. You just have to recharge. So, I stop work and sleep the sleep of the dead. And I try not to overextend myself on a daily basis. Fresh air and the sunshine are, quite literally, my way of “getting unstuck”.

4) What was one memorable lesson you’ve learnt through personal experience during the course of your career? What happened?

CO: And this is the lawyer in me speaking, document everything. Ideally, in an email and/or an actual document. Do not rely on SMS or WhatsApp communications. It’s good governance generally and keeps everyone honest.

5) If you are given time to do anything you want without work obligations, what will you do? Where will you go?

CO: I would work on a vegetable farm that also had an animal sanctuary attached. Where? Wherever that farm might be!

6) What is your favourite quote?

CO: “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” – Bertrand Russell

7) What is one advice you wish you had received when you first started out your career?

CO: I’ve found that just because I love what I do doesn’t mean that I must love it every single day. There are days when I downright hate it, but that’s because of a particular situation or even person. The most important thing to feel about your work is whether you can see yourself doing it in a fulfilling and mostly happy way for a long time.

8) What is one change in the industry you would like to see?

CO: In the context of writing, I would like to see writers stop undercutting their colleagues in the industry. And for writers generally to be paid fairly for their work. Nothing angers me more than some smart-ass client saying things like, “I could have written that myself.” Well, why didn’t you?

We’d like to thank Carolyn for participating. Please stay tuned for our upcoming interview series posts every week!

About EventNook:

Event Management Software company, EventNook is an online event registration & ticketing platform where organisers can set up and customise their very own event page. Through it, organisers can collect attendees’ information and their payment using a real-time dashboard. Features such as Automated Email Confirmation and QR Code Check-In make the job of event organisers much easier and more efficient. Recently, EventNook launched an Event Venues Directory which provides information on more than 5,000 venues in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Hong Kong, making one of the best places on the web to look for venues in South East Asia.

Contact us:
Email: hello@eventnook.com
Phone: +65 6681-6571
Twitter: https://twitter.com/eventnook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eventnook/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Eventnook/

Conferences Planning Checklist for the busy event planner

 

flickr.com
flickr.com

 

Part I- Confirm event details and branding

  • Conference committee & responsibilities
  • Event goals and theme for the conference
  • Budget & Sponsors
  • Options of event dates, venues and speakers
  • Reach out to relevant venues and speakers to confirm availability
  • Design logo and consistent design theme

 

Part II- Early Preparation

  • Conference schedule
  • Reach out to sponsors
  • Reach out to speakers: keynote speakers, trainers, workshop facilitators
  • Research suppliers to compare rates
    • Audiovisual team
    • Staging
    • Catering
    • Performers and emcees
    • Decorations of venue
    • Gifts, awards, flowers
    • Banners and publicity materials
    • Transport and logistics
    • Ushers and Runners
    • Photographer
    • Marketing agencies
    • Merchandising
    • Printing shops
    • Onsite communication: Wifi providers, walkie talkies, etc.
    • Staging Crew
  • Reach out to suppliers and engage them
  • Marketing strategy, slogans and promotional activities
  • Accommodation for international participants

Constantly iterate and refine the schedule throughout the process whenever you confirm or cancel something

 

Part III- Get the word out

  • Send out invites
  • Request speaker bio, workshop description and presentation outlines
  • Print brochures, posters, etc.
  • Send out invites
  • Decide on event registration and ticketing software
    • Set-up online event registration and ticketing page
    • Create special discounts, ticket types and invitation codes and send them to relevant people (if applicable)
  • Launch marketing campaign
  • Send out press releases and organise press conferences
  • Contact people in traditional and new media (newspapers, TV, and magazines as well as prominent bloggers and social media influencers)
  • Publish information in industry related publications
  • Develop long-term content marketing editorial calendar and begin marketing educational and useful content related to your conference and theme
  • Begin social media advertising on various social media platform and build up social media activity nearer to the event
  • List your event on event sites and affiliate calendars
  • Monitor feedback and response on social media, it is an early warning sign for anything wrong with your event
  • Start early bird sales

 

Part IV- Sell! Sell! Sell!

  • Promote ticket sales with giveaways
  • Close early bird tickets and start regular cycle tickets

 

Part VI- Finalising

  • Book flight and rental cars based on registration information
  • Finalise booklets and printables and send for printing (including post-event survey)
  • Pack registration pack
  • Finalise diet requirements and menu with catering
  • Appoint key points of contact for event day
  • If there are VIPs in the guest list, you may need to hire security

 

Part VII- The week before

  • Ensure the staging crew has the banners and decorations required by you
  • Organise a dry run of the conference and test audiovisual as well as rehearse stage lineup and usher movement.
  • Modify sequencing and finalise event flow
  • Ensure venue has been set up properly, with signages put up and security and ushers in place
  • Ensure writing materials are prepared
  • Ensure supplies, merchandise, booklets, gifts and awards have been delivered

 

On the Day

  • Quick run-through with everyone

Invest in onsite event check-in systems and entry management software to avoid long queues and troublesome manual registration

  • Ensure every usher has a fully-charged, Internet connected iPad for the iPad check-in system and are trained on what to do
  • Check internet and battery life of equipment
  • Social media
    • Remind audience to use your event hashtags and social media handles
    • Manage real-time social media posting. Post videos, fun photos and use hashtags
    • Post last-minute updates for event goers

 

Post-event 

  • Oversee packing and returns
  • Finalise accounts
  • Post photos and videos of the event and curate content. This will be very useful for marketing the next event
  • Thank the team and your event-goers for their support. It’s a good chance to market your event again and end off on a good note
sgbusinessevents.com
sgbusinessevents.com

 

Plan a business conference today with EventNook today!

Event Management Software company, EventNook is an online event registration & ticketing platform where organisers can set up and customise their very own event page. Through it, organisers can collect attendees’ information and their payment using a real-time dashboard. Features such as Automated Email Confirmation and QR Code Check-In make the job of event organisers much easier and more efficient. Recently, EventNook launched an Event Venues Directory which provides information on more than 5,000 venues in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Hong Kong, making one of the best places on the web to look for venues in South East Asia.

Contact us:
Email: hello@eventnook.com
Phone: +65 6681-6571
Twitter: https://twitter.com/eventnook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eventnook/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Eventnook/

 

How to plan effective corporate retreats that deliver results

Lackluster corporate retreat planning can rack up huge losses for the company.

Firstly, there is the opportunity cost for the company when employees are not in the office. Secondly, employees may get more stressed out than usual as they fall behind on work.

So don’t waste time planning boring and repetitive corporate retreats. Instead, put in a little effort and apply these tips to make your corporate retreat time better well spent and truly effective for the company’s needs and growth.

raspberryfieldsfarm
Photo Credits: raspberryfieldsfarm.com

1. Know your goals

Corporate retreats can be used to achieve multiple goals at once. Plan to overachieve because with a bit of strategic planning, you can reach many more goals than what you thought you could.

A corporate retreat can do many things. Here are some you may not have thought of:

  • Improve team dynamics and trust
  • Generate creative solutions for difficult problems
  • Boost understanding of company amongst employees
  • Communicate important ideas and messages
  • Change strategic direction
  • Align everyone in same direction
  • Spark honest and insightful conversations and feedback
  • Etc.

2. Picking a venue strategically

Offsite corporate retreats are much more effective at tapping the creativity of the group because it creates a different environment from the office, preferably one that is open and invigorating.

Picking the right venue can help make your life as an event planner so much more easier. You will be able to plan your activities without worrying about lacking facilities or colleagues complaining about being uncomfortable.

Moreover, some of these venues provide assistance in planning and special venue features that actually facilitate team building and brainstorming so that you as an event planner can accomplish more at once!

Meeting Rooms-01

If you are planning your corporate retreat in Singapore, check out a list of amazing venues for corporate retreat here https://blog.eventnook.com/post/amazing-venues-in-singapore-for-your-next-corporate-retreat/ for some inspiration!

3. Really understand the team

Even if you are not a HR personnel and are just helping to plan the retreat ad hoc, you should take this opportunity to really understand the group dynamics and the people in the company you work for. Not only does this help you plan a tailor-made retreat that works, it is a chance for you to show off your people skills and build great relations with your colleagues.

Take the effort to really understand the quirks and culture of the company and the main issues everyone is facing in terms of working with each other. It will help you navigate the office landscape better as well in your daily work.

4. Content of retreat

A common misconception about retreats is that activities and team building are necessary. In fact, the more creative and fun, the better. However, sometimes, the most effective way to plan a corporate retreat is simply, to keep things simple.

A corporate retreat is meant to demystify and clarify things, rather than complicate things. Introducing games that have no relevance to daily work, or activities that require more planning than you can swallow are not essential to a good corporate retreat.

Instead, you need to treat planning this event as a problem-solving exercise, where you need to identify a problem, perhaps a lacking or a wrong way of doing things, and find solutions, direct or indirect, to it. This ties back to your goals for the corporate retreat.

Perhaps a cooking class? Photo Credits: careeraddict.com

Exercises are a great way to help groups practise working together but rather than think up these exercises on your own, or worst still, rip them off from the internet, adapt problems you see in your daily work life in the company and modify them for the context of a retreat. It’s also great to bring different departments together because exposure to different ways of thinking can help improve creativity!

Tune in for our next blog article to learn more about best practices and inspiration in planning corporate retreat activities.

5. Strategise the flow

Planning a long list of activities without paying attention to how you order the activities can entirely undermine their effectiveness. For instance, if the group has not had the opportunity to get comfortable in each others’ presence, then planning an activity to test and improve trust in the team will not be meaningful.

Ensure that the foundation for future activities are built in the first few activities and participants have time to react to it and become comfortable.

6. Sneak in some work if possible

Retreats as employee rewards are highly costly. If you want to reward your employees, raise their bonus or cash vouchers instead.

So stop seeing retreats as a way to treat your employees. Once you do, you will start thinking of how to make your retreat much more productive for the company.

When planning activities, again try to adapt from day-to-day office work, but make it different enough so that the group will look at it from a fresh perspective.

If your retreat is about getting people to brainstorm solutions to entrenched problems in the company, then ensure there is good understanding of where the problem might lie that prevent the team from solving the problem and tackle that directly in unconventional ways.

Try to mix up fun and serious work. The point is to make the environment as stimulating as possible. An un-office like environment tends to inspire greater creativity as participants get out of their usual selves.

shelter-co.com
Photo Credits: shelter-co.com

7. Manage expectations

Many managers or HR people think that retreats can solve morale issues or teamwork problems. A retreat cannot solve something negative. It can only add to the positives, or reinforce what’s already present.

Also, do not use retreats to include political agendas, and be really careful about this. Make the corporate retreat a neutral ground. Even the boss shouldn’t be able to make it overly about their agenda.

Ultimately, don’t be disheartened that a retreat cannot radically change group dynamics or solve pertinent issues. It’s still a great way to get employees to feel valued and more motivated.

In particular, make sure to really listen to feedback during the retreat. Know that the retreat is a great way to get real feedback in a non-formal setting. And make sure to treat the feedback you get seriously. Go back to the office and work on them so that the value of the retreat as a channel for change becomes credible.

Screen shot 2015-11-01 at PM 09.08.03

About EventNook:

Event Mangement Software company, EventNook is an online event registration & ticketing platform where organisers can set up and customise their very own event page. Through it, organisers can collect attendees’ information and their payment using a real-time dashboard. Features such as Automated Email Confirmation and QR Code Check-In make the job of event organisers much easier and more efficient. Recently, EventNook launched an Event Venues Directory which provides information on more than 5,000 venues in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Hong Kong, making one of the best places on the web to look for venues in South East Asia.

Contact us:
Email: hello@eventnook.com
Phone: +65 6681-6571
Twitter: https://twitter.com/eventnook
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eventnook/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Eventnook/